Expense Software That Can Topple Intuit

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It just keeps getting worse and worse for Intuit ( INTU).

First, the Mountain View, Calif.-based digital business finance firm faced an army of competing low-cost, Web-based accounting packages. You know, tools like FreshBooks, LessAccounting and Xero to name just a few. Now the accounting giant faces a new generation of targeted small-business finance packages that effectively compete with it on an a la carte basis. These company are gunning for each and every piece of Intuit's pie.

These tiny business software application makers don't have memorable names -- usually monikers such as Consected, XPenser, GTax and Rupeal.

These operations do business domestically and overseas. And they really do offer a fabulous array of software tools that enable small firms to do critical stuff such as track expenses.

So, with tax season looming -- yes, we really are in the home stretch for April 15 already -- I took three of these expense finance accounting tools for a test spin.

And if I didn't worry about Intuit's future before testing them, I sure do now.

Concur Breeze ( CNQR) (two users free, $8 per user per month after that)
Redmond, Wash.-based Concur got its start offering streamlined outsourced expense management for ginormous enterprises. But since that end of the economy has been shipped to Shanghai, Concur has begun focusing on small businesses. And its latest offering, Breeze, can actually be made to work well in many small shops. The expense management tool is nicely priced -- the first two users are free, then it's $8 per user per month -- and provides access to sophisticated expense tools that do all sorts of cool tricks, such as sync with most credit cards and track cash expenses. Obviously, this is still the Web, so there is a major pain-in-the-butt factor: You will need to master Concur's vision of how the expense world works, which does takes time. But once you get the hang of it, you will have a relatively efficient means of tracking credit card, cash and checking expenses for you and your employees.

Expensify (free for personal use; firms get two users for free, then pay $5 per user per month after that)
For those who mindlessly believe anything is better if it's delivered online, Expensify is the solution for you. Almost ruthlessly trendy, Expensify brings serious expense reporting tools to small shops. Cash, credit-card management, mileage and many other business costs can be baked into complex reports for internal and external use. Expensify released an impressive upgrade recently that offers some serious analytics and other finance tools, but the devil still is in the details here. How dates are tracked on expenses can be tricky. And if you are not comfortable with techy stuff such as QR codes and using smartphone cameras to take pictures of your receipts as you spend, Expensify can be overwhelmingly wonkish.

Certify (free for personal use; five users costs $52.50 per month, with volume discounts for more users)
I suspect $600-some-odd per year for a team of five to manage expenses is way out of the league of most small firms. But there is something darn nice about the free-for-personal-use license Certify offers. The company specializes in sophisticated online expense management that mimics what is found in larger companies, and if your business' clientele uses such complex cost tracking tools, Certify is an impressive way to manage your expenses similar to how your large customers do it. And that can really save time. I liked the complex expense tracking options, the multilayer signoff process, and the centralized audit trails that really do keep the budding Bernie Madoffs in your operation on the straight and narrow.

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